Skip navigation

1797 Marchland

Jean Baptiste Marchand (1760-1825) was a Sulpician priest. He had been Superior of the College of Montreal when he was named pastor of Assumption Church in Detroit in 1796. He served the parish until his death in 1825.

L'Assomption du Detroit,

January 31, 1797.

In spite of the precautions we had taken to get her promptly, we arrived only on Christmas Day in the evening. In two weeks we reached Fort Erie on November 5, but we were unable to set sail before the evening of the thirtieth. After coming in sight of the Sandusky Island the west wind became so furious that we had to turn around on the feast of St. Francis Xavier. After running great risk of being cast on shore below Presqu'isle in a frightful cold, and after much tossing we finally returned to Fort Erie on the second Sunday of Advent, where we anchored about ten o'clock in the moring. Without wasting any time we made preparations for the trip by land. On the day after the feast of the Immaculate Conception we went down to Niagara. In the morning of the feast of St. Lucy Mr. Pratt and I, each riding on horse-back, carrying a few clothes as well as provisions for ourselves and our horses, started on our way to Detroit by the Grand River of the Mohawks. After a day's march from the River of the Mohawks we came upon the River La Tranche, which we followed down for nearly eighty leagues, sixty of which were through the woods. There were a few houses along our way, and we had to sleep outside only two nights with some slight suffering from cold and rain. The last eighteen leagues are settled just like the road from Niagara to the Grand River (from 9 to 9 arpents) and in the whole distance to Niagara there are only 12 Catholics at the lower end of the Thames River, 10 out of the 12 are French-Canadians.

The day after my arrival I went to the church where I met Father Burke to whom I gave the letter of my appointment that I had obtained in your name from the Coadjutor-Bishop. He immediately installed me and I sang the High Mass. He expressed much joy at my arrival, about which he had been very anxious because of the bad news that had spread about Detroit that we were in the islands. The joy that was apparent at our arrival, the fine welcome that I received from the inhabitants who expressed gratitude for your kind remembrance to them and for acceding to their request to send them a priest so soon - all these circumstances make me hope for much consolation in this place. I didn't experience an hour's sickness during the whole trip and I am still very well.. . .

I found the church and sacristy in very good order and fully furnished with clean linens and vestments. But I can't find anything relating to the fees of the pastor or of the church. In the rectory I found only a clock, a stove, a mattress, a few dishes, a few pieces of kitchen furniture, three chairs and the armchair of the late Father Potier. With regard to the library, I did not find the list of books that you left me. Father Levadou was satisfied with 60 volumes and there remain 540 volumes, some good and some bad, but good enough for a parish priest. Not more than a hundred volumes are damaged or belong to broken sets.

The parish is made up of only 150 inhabitants including the 12 at River Thames, 5 along the shore of Lake Erie and 4 on La Riviere aux Canards. As for the Hurons, there remain only four or five lodges with few occupants at La Riviere aux Canards. Fort Malden is an infant establishment where there are only two or three Catholics. Outside of Niagara and Kingston which can be more easily served from Montreal, the only mission that could be attended from this place is Sault Ste. Marie where there are only ten or twelve inhabitants. However, if Your Lordship decides to send a priest to reside with me, I shall be very happy. I am quite circumspect in my dealings with Father Levadou, because he is suspected of being very much opposed to the King's interests at this place. I don't know if there is any good reason for thinking so; in any case I am being cautious. . . .I did not think that my letter would be so long; I beg you to excuse me and to believe me when I say I am your very respectful and obedient servant.

From : MARCHANT TO HUBERT. The Windsor Border Region: Canada's Southernmost Frontier: A Collection of Documents. Edited with an introduction by Ernest J. Lajeunesse. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1960: 151 -153.